November 16, 2017 1 year 11 months ago

Union, Corus, struggle to reach deal for ops employees

TORONTO – When Corus purchased Shaw Media last year, along with the company came 15 union members who belonged to the Canadian Media Guild.

Shortly after joining Corus, the group of former Shaw operations employees organized with their new colleagues and in March, the group voted to join CMG together. According to the union, that’s when things started to go wrong between management and the now 45 unionized employees. Unions are not generally a large presence at Corus, which has close to 5,000 employees, however over 200 Global TV staffers belong to Unifor.

The vote by the group to join CMG “I think surprised Corus,” said union representative Matt Douglas to, and when it happened, Douglas said the workers were immediately deprived certain benefits such as free parking at the Corus building and new spending limits were placed on eyeglasses, for example. “It happened within 24 hours of the union being voted in,” he added.

Despite that, CMG has been working to come to a new agreement for its members and while many issues have been resolved, negotiations have stopped over a couple of key issues, said Douglas: the fact Corus only wants a new collective bargaining agreement to expire April 30, 2018; and a refusal to meangingfully do something about the difference in wages paid to the former Shaw employees versus the Corus workers.

In some cases, said Douglas, there is a $10,000/year difference in annual salary earned by workers doing the same job, with the former Shaw workers all earning more.

Douglas added the union is not looking to make up the discrepancy in a single year, but gradually over a three-year CBA. “We get they can’t make up that difference” all at once, he said. “Let’s have a multi-year collective agreement and let’s phase it in and on the union side, we’ll hold the line on the higher paid people.

According to Douglas, Corus is offering a 1% wage increase, but it is only moving money from the company pension plan to cover that, and it won’t budge from its insistence on a one-year deal.

While he said CMG has no complaints about the negotiators at the table, it appears to him “they don’t have a mandate from management” to go any farther than where talks currently sit. So, CMG has turned to the web and to the media to fight its case because they don’t really want to make an official strike threat yet. It has also launched a letter-writing campaign to add more pressure on management.

“We’re hoping it doesn’t have to go that way,” said Douglas. “It’s a well functioning workplace with good morale and a good dynamic between management and staff and strikes don’t help that”

As for Corus, we asked for comment on some of the specific questions raised here but company management declined to get into specifics. “As part of our collective bargaining process with the Canadian Media Guild, we are engaged in ongoing discussions related to a variety of items, including wages and benefits. Our current focus remains on working through this process so we can reach a deal that’s in the best interests of our people and Corus. We look forward to meeting with the CMG later this month in hopes of coming closer to an agreement,” said a Corus spokesperson.